I have a stew problem. Stew. Eew.
I hear the word "stew" and immediately relive my experience of opening hundreds of #10 cans of it every Wednesday afternoon while working as a summer camp counselor. My wrist still aches when I remember the hours it takes to feed an entire camp from a can.
Each week we were asked to work one day off our regular camp jobs and spend a day in the kitchen working for Big Betty, our camp's (ahem) "Chef".
Its hard to refer to her as a "Chef" these days without choking on my words a bit. To call yourself a chef you should first have people in the kitchen that you direct but - but when you do direct these minions to open 100 cans of Dinty Moore Stew for your dinner entree, well, you should be forced to abdicate your title. Don't you think?
So, Wednesday was my day for kitchen work and Wednesday night was stew night. Like clockwork. Stew, salad, butter and rolls. Hot fudge sundaes for dessert. Chef Betty had obviously hoped that campers who had just sugared up on ice cream sundaes would no longer remember the meal they suffered through just minutes earlier.
You'd think with a menu like that I would have spent my Wednesday mornings dicing beef shoulder, quartering potatoes, or at least peeling and slicing bags of carrots so that they could simmer all afternoon, filing the kitchen and dining hall with their enticing and nourishing aromas. .
Nope. At Big Betty's direction I spent my Wednesday afternoons opening up hundreds of #10 cans filled with stew, scooping their contents into big pots and carrying them to the cooking line where Betty's number 2, an even bigger woman named Claudia, would melt down their contents over the stove and pass them on to a minion who would, in turn, scoop them out onto a sectioned cafeteria tray.
You can only imagine how horrifying this whole experience was to a young, impressionable youth such as myself. A youth, I might remind you, with particular culinary sensibilities.
I lost 10 pounds at camp that summer.
So now you know why I have an aversion to stew. Its not permanent I assure you. I'm working it out because, well, I actually really like stew. Now that I know what it should taste like. Since stews are just a tick of the gastronomical index away from all manner of elegantly braised dishes that I love. -- Coq au vin, boeuf à la bourguignonne, veal oso bucco, etc..
Seems all I really have to do to enjoy stew is stay away from cans and give it another, more fancy name. A name you won't see on the side of a can. A name like Navarin Printanier.
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's "Around My French Table"
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 pounds lamb shoulder trimmed of fat and cubed.
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups beef broth
- 3 tablespoon tomato paste
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 1/2 cups of frozen pearl onions, thawed
- 3 carrots sliced into 3/4 inch pieces
- 2 parsnips cut into 3/4 inch wedges
- 1 pound red new potatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 cup frozen peas
- salt and pepper
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 2 parsley sprigs
- 1 bay leave
- salt and pepper
Pour 3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy dutch oven over moderate to high heat. When very hot add enough lamb pieces to brown them on all sides in a single layer. Turn to brown. You will do this in at least two batches at about 5 minutes each. When the lamb is all brown transfer to a plate and start the next batch. When done, empty pan and return lamb to dutch over. Sprinkle with flour and continue cooking for 3 minutes..
Add broth and tomato paste, garlic, thyme, parsley and bay leaf. Stir everything a few times and bring to a boil. When boiling turn down flame to low and cover the pot to let it simmer for 45 minutes.
Set a large skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. When its hot and the carrots and parsnips and cook for 2 minutes. Sprinkle sugar and continue cooking for 8 minutes or until root veggies are cooked and browned (but not soft.) Add *thawed* peal onions and cook for another 2 minutes to brown onions slightly.
Put rack in center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Add sauted veggies, potatoes, and simmer on stove for 15 minutes before putting dutch oven into the oven. Braise for 30 minutes until lamb is fork-tender.
Remove from oven and discard bay leaf and parsley stems, if you can find them! (Stew can be made ahead up until this point and kept in the refrigerator for up to two days, covered. In fact, it will taste better if you do it the day before! If so, gently cook stew in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes before going to the next step.)
Add frozen peas to stew and let cook on stove top over medium heat for 3 minutes. Check seasonings and serve.